Week One: Aggregation

18 Jan

Rachel Rowan

As a person who has grown up in the age of the Internet, I am at home with the concept of having access to billions of gigabytes of information at my disposal. However, it’s often difficult for me to decide exactly what I want to know and where the best place is to find that information. Of course, a quick Google search is usually my first step if I’m looking for something specific, but if I’m just browsing to catch up on the day’s news, searching Google can be wildly unhelpful because it provides too much information at once.

It’s this reason that makes me agree with bloggers like Josh Sternberg when he says journalism will thrive because of news curators. Using media editors as filters through which to access information is a concept that is not new, Steven Rosenbaum of Magnify.net says, but the increase in information is so monumental these days that media editors are becoming essential for helping readers sift through the news. It’s up to media editors to find the most accurate, complete sources of information and to combine them in a single post, complete with links and, possibly, analysis, in order to give readers a chance to get every side of a story they can.

The process of curation is largely about narrowing down information. As Mindy McAdams explains, journalism curation can be compared to museum curation in many ways: Like museum curators, reporters have access to thousands of “artifacts” (snippets of information), but they need to be able to narrow down the information into one “exhibit” (an article or blog post) so as not to overwhelm readers.

News aggregation online saves readers several steps, depending on how far they want to delve into the information provided. By providing links in stories, readers no longer have to take journalists at their word: If readers want to hear something directly from a source, they need only click through the links. When I read aggregated posts, I often find the links provided useful, if a bit distracting. As nice I think it is to have immediate access to specific additional information without going through the hassle of a Google search, sometimes I think it’s great when I simply read an article, get the information I need quickly, and think, “OK, that’s that. I don’t need to go any further; I know what I need to know.”

Deciding when not to curate is a complication I hadn’t considered prior to reading Mallary Jean Tenore’s article, “The aggregator’s dilemma,” but it is one I believe is important. Even though aggregated stories link back to the original posts, is it ethical to eliminate the need to visit these sources by providing all the essential information they contain? Aggregated posts are helpful, but they run the risk of taking the spotlight away from original sources. I would much rather be provided with a link to the original source of a story if an aggregated post is only going to summarize it without providing additional insight.

A couple of these articles mention Tumblr, which is a tool I use often, but only for fun–I mostly follow personal blogs dedicated to TV shows, actors and books series I’m a fan of. I run across media Tumblrs every so often as I browse my dashboard (a composite list of blog updates), and I’m always impressed by how media outlets choose to cater the information they provide to Tumblr users. Media posts are often short, to-the-point and–if the subject calls for it–lighthearted. The editors of these blogs not only know how to cater to their readers, but they also know how readers prefer to be addressed in such an informal setting. The reblog function of Tumblr allows free commentary on these posts, which I can only imagine provides insight that helps drive future use of the tool and which may also provide story ideas and a greater variety of sources for media outlets.

Curation and aggregation of the news, to me, is as fascinating as it is useful. The fact that social media tools are allowing readers to contribute the news cycle and even perpetuate it tells me journalism is indeed adapting to the information frenzy inspired by the Internet, and news aggregation is simply the next step in the process.


One Response to “Week One: Aggregation”

  1. Ronald R. Rodgers January 20, 2012 at 4:36 pm #

    The quality of this falls under Good on the Rubric – though it could have done more to incorporate “the work or experiences of other students, scholars and experts” – that is some sources outside our readings. However, I do like how you include your own experience to inform the post.

    Try for a better headline rather than the label hed now on board.
    A couple of these articles mention Tumblr, which is a tool I use often, but only for fun–I mostly // and–if the subject calls for it–lighthearted. (see ap on em dashes – you need space on both sides)
    are allowing readers to contribute the news cycle FOCUS FOCUS

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